Archive for March, 2011

The Fabulous Four Story Treehouse

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

The Sanborn Treehouse

Richard Louv, author of “Last Child in the Woods:  Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder” is a big fan of tree-houses; educator David Sobel includes tree-houses as important examples of children’s special spaces; and who hasn’t had a secret longing to spend a few days or even weeks in the Swiss Family Robinson’s Treehouse, as envisioned by Johann Wyss and Walt Disney. Tree-houses are magic for all of us, but especially for kids. Hanging out in the treetops, spying on the birds, hiding out in a protected nook—it’s fun, it’s adventure, and it’s memorable.

ERIC WEIDMANN (BS 63-64; Staff 66-70) was the architect and builder of the 4-story Tree-house which has provided so many fun times and memories for Big Spring and High Trails campers over the past 40+ years. “I’m pretty sure the fourth and last floor of the Tree-house was completed in 1970. I’m also pretty sure it was started in 1969 and might have had its first three floors done that year.” As leader of the Tree-house builders, which was the successor to The Congo Bongo Construction Company (led by SHRIMP “Lamumba” GOETHERT (BS Staff 63-65) and JACK “Kasa-Vubu” KUSSMAUL (BS Staff 64-66)), Eric doesn’t recall the specific inspiration that led to the creation of the Tree-house. He thinks it is possible that “I just saw those three trees while walking the road between HT and BS and was struck by how perfect they would be for a tree-house”.

The BEST Treehouse in Colorado!

“Of course Sandy was worried about kids falling out of it. When I first brought up the idea of sleep-outs up in the Tree-house, I think I found him the next morning early up in the tree house himself pounding extra nails, testing structural integrity, etc. He was the one who first required side boards to secure any sleepers from rolling out.”

“Sometime during the summer of 1970, after we had painted it, we had a formal dedication. The tree house was dedicated to Jerry as Apollo, God of the Sun. He dressed as Apollo for the christening.”

The 4-story Tree-house has become a landmark at the camps and is one of the first places campers want to visit when they arrive. It has been painted about thirty times, often as an Outbacker or Junior Counselor project and has sported every color of the rainbow.  It has been the site of innumerable cookouts and sleep outs and the staging area for thousands of egg drop contests. It has had a starring role in the Woodsmen Discovery Group for the HTOEC program.   Eric did not realize at the time that his inspiration would become Pyramid-like in its longevity.

“The funny thing about that experience, one I will always cherish, is that I’m terrible with my hands, a miserable carpenter.” (Just for the record, we do have our maintenance department check the Tree-house every year for boards that need replacing and nails that need pounding in again.)

Where are we? Colorado! What are we? Mountain Mamas!

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

Camp Kids at the "Rockin" SWC table

On Monday, we had the opportunity to be part of the Colorado Mountain Mamas Spring Fling.  Colorado Mountain Mamas is a hiking club for moms living on the Colorado Front Range.  They have a chapter in Denver and one in Colorado Springs.  CMM offers hikes for moms with babies newborn to 2 years in a pack (with three different levels of difficulty) and also hikes for toddlers ages 2 to 5.

CMM was founded in 2003 by Joy Opp (a former Colorado Springs native and 6th grade attendee of HTOEC) after the birth of her daughter, Amanda.  The club has grown to over 2,000 members trekking the trails with their seven hike leaders.

The Audubon Center--a great facility!

Their annual Spring Fling event attracted over 300 outdoorsy individuals to The Audubon Center at Chatfield Reservoir in south Denver to hike on the trails, hang out with the red-winged blackbirds, make cool crafts, check out great vendors, and play Nature Bingo with Mike and Ariella from Sanborn Western Camps!

We loved meeting all the moms, dads and grandparents who are passionate about getting their kids into the outdoors.  We gave away 3 copies of our new book 101 Nature Activities for Kids and donated one to Colorado Mountain Mamas and one to the Audubon Center for their future programs.   We encourage you to visit to order a copy for your family, classroom, nature club, youth group, or just to share with your neighbors.

101 Nature Activities for Kids

We often share some of those 101 nature activities on our  Sanborn Western Camps blog–so like us on Facebook so you won’t ever miss a post!  Our blog is also a great place to stay current on everything going on within the Children in Nature movement, find fun outdoor activities to do with your kids, and to find great tools and techniques to incorporate into your own outdoor parenting, grandparenting, and teaching style.

Additionally, April is Children in Nature Awareness month—and there will be plenty of opportunities to get your kids outside in the upcoming weeks.  Plan, or plan to attend, a Let’s G.O. (Get Outside) event for your favorite play group, a school field trip, or home school community.

Check out the Children and Nature Network on Facebook to stay up to date on ideas, activities, articles, legislation, and more.  Keep the outdoors part of childhood…keep hiking, playing, and doing what you are doing with your family, friends, and neighbors.

We love Mountain Mamas and Dadventurers–let’s get these kids outside!

Sustainability at Sanborn

Friday, March 18th, 2011

The Rocky Mountains: A Metaphor for the Capacity to Endure

‘Sustainability’ – this word has become the center of a quickly growing movement focused on developing new ways for humans to live on our planet without depleting the resources we use to survive here.  This winter, the year-round staff at COEC began to fully address how our organization should develop more sustainable practices, while simultaneously striving to become innovators and leaders through our sustainable efforts as a camp, an outdoor education center, and an adult retreat center.

As the spring season for the High Trails Outdoor Education Center approaches, we’ve been working hard to brainstorm and put some of these new ideas into place.  We started our thought process by nailing down a definition of the word sustainability, and then by deciding how it should apply to our spring program.  This word has a variety of meanings, and we decided explain it as ‘the capacity to endure.’  As an organization, we want COEC to contribute to humanity’s effort to function in a way that will allow future generations to enjoy life as we do today, and we want to be a role model to the children and adults who we teach and lead in all of our programs.

Leave No Trace Outdoor Ethics + Widespread Sustainability 'Best Practices'

This spring at HTOEC, we’ll be focusing on reducing our environmental footprint and building our knowledge of how life works on the planet Earth.  We’re working on improving our facilities to reduce our consumption across the different buildings on our property.  Compact fluorescent light bulbs, toilet-tank bags to reduce the water in each flush, a composting and greenhouse program, and a 30-panel solar array on the roof of the Sportsplex at The Nature Place are all reducing the amount of energy we consume and the amount of waste we produce.  We plan to teach participants about all of these additions, and to continue making more of the same sort in the near future.  On-demand water heaters, low-flow showerheads, and more solar arrays are all hopeful.

Inspiring Stewardship with Every Sunset They See

However, these are small steps, and serve to augment our main goal: education. In all of our cabins, we will teach students and teachers how to make small changes that can have a big impact – turning off lights during the day, turning down the heater when the students leave for classes, and taking less frequent and shorter showers, to name a few.  Likewise, during meals in our dining hall, we’ll encourage groups to consciously think about their consumption by measuring the amount of food scraps and waste they produce each day.  Daily results will be posted so that students can quickly and easily learn how much waste they are producing, and try to reduce it each day they live here.

"We need more long lookers if we are going to look much longer." -Sandy Sanborn-

All of these steps will help us spread our belief in creating and upholding sustainability in all that we do.  We want our organization to have a capacity to endure, but more importantly, we want our Earth to endure as we continue to live on it, so that future people will be able to enjoy the outdoors as we do here.  Spreading this message to every person who comes through COEC is our most important educational effort today and into the future.

Who Am I? Finding Your Authentic Self at Camp

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

4 Factors Driving Crisis for Girls: Sexual Identity, The Cyberbubble, Obsessions, Environmental Toxins

Dr. Leonard Sax has recently produced two excellent books on raising children in this digital, often disconnected age.  He published Boys Adrift in 2009 and Girls On The Edge in 2010.  Both look at many of the cultural and societal influences impacting our youth today and how we as parents, youth development professionals, and educators can help kids navigate these increasingly complex, fast, and often challenging situations before they become “crises” for our families and communities.

A similarity between both books is the recognition that some of the “new crisis” that arises for both boys and girls in this new age is the lack of an authentic self.  This is especially important for us as camp professionals because we are attempting, in everything we do, to help kids define their sense of self.  Yet how do we do that and do it effectively?

How many kids see the sunrise while climbing a mountain?

All of the campers who come to camp are “amazing” in their own right.  Yet, as we move closer and closer to college admission letters being sent, we realize, “…being amazing doesn’t feel like enough these days when you’re competing with all the other amazing (individuals) around the country who are applying to the same elite colleges that you have been encouraged to aspire to practically all your life…There is something about the lives they lead–their jam-packed schedules, the amped-up multitasking, the focus on a narrow group of the nation’s most selective colleges–that speaks of a profound anxiety.” (from The New York Times For Girls, It’s Be Yourself, and Be Perfect Too)

Where does this anxiety come from?  It comes from what Sax calls “anorexia of the soul.”  Defining oneself has never been an easy task, yet the sheer pace and connected-disconnectedness of our transient, global, fame and consumer driven world has left our kids without a basic understanding of who they are and what is important to them.

...and the band played on.

Simple questions like “What do you like to do for fun?” or “What three words describe you?” or “Describe yourself in four sentences or less” can give parents, educators, and camp professionals a sense of how connected kids are with their authentic selves.  Answers will, of course, vary–but an answer of “I’m tall. I”m thin. I’m really smart. And I hate sushi.” is fine for an 8 year old–but at 17, 19, or 22, an answer like that is superficial…and all of us can be (and should be) multidimensional at those ages.

Sax believes as kids move from “childhood to adolescence, the answer to “Tell me about yourself” should evolve from concrete descriptors to more abstract ideas about what they want, and how they see themselves now compared with their past and their future.”

Singing Songs: Song Leading To Leadership Development

Camp helps children define their authentic sense of self because they are removed, in many cases, from the increasingly complex and technologically dependent social lives they lead.  Rather than spending hours uploading photos, commenting on other photos, or simply waiting breathlessly for the next text–tweens and teens can focus on a smaller community, in-person conflict resolution, and acquisition of life skills that are both empowering and powerful.

And, more than anything, they can explore genuine connections between themselves and other people–connections that will help them further define who they are and what they want out of their own lives.

Sharing YOUR authentic self

It is these experiences that will allow them to write compelling, authentic, personal essays for future college applications.   These experiences will allow them to be able to stand up to bullying in their schools.  These experiences will give them room to be creative, innovative, visionary and to gain and apply wisdom.  These experiences will help shape their development into the happy, healthy, and successful adults we want them all to become–not the anxious, distracted, bullying and depressed children we seem to read about in the paper or see on Dr. Phil so often these days.

Sometimes it is hard to help children learn how to define their own sense of self because the adults around them lack authentic selves.  Challenge yourself, your friends, members of your family and your camp staff to define what you each believe and value.  Visit This I Believe to read other personal belief essays, and to learn how to more effectively define your own set of beliefs.

Then, instead of uploading the essay into cyberspace, share who you are and what you have learned with your children, students, friends, family and campers.    Because, as e.e. cummings said, “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are”…and to share that person and wisdom with the next generation.

A Sense of Self

Monday, March 7th, 2011

Standing Tall on the Summit of a 14,000 foot peak

A “Sense of Self” is central to our mission at Sanborn Western Camps.  Defining how best to create a sense of self in each individual child is a challenge for parents, teachers, mentors, and summer camp counselors alike–yet, as Kim Foster proposes in the following post, it may be as easy as giving our children opportunities to try new things–and always smiling at the result.

Look closely: A Nature Camouflage Hike

Discovering one’s self is something we all continuously strive to do from childhood through adulthood. In childhood, people can often feel restrained by their parent’s expectations and spend their time either trying to live up to those expectations or (in some cases) down to them.  Children are constantly trying to find their niche, so once they feel they have found one (be it at home or at school, or at both) they tend to cling to that niche. It can be very difficult to break out of, even if it is not a true reflection of who that child/person is.

Running triumphant: Modeling a Healthy Sense of Self

I think this is something teachers need to be aware of so they can create a classroom environment which encourages children to examine their interests, their strengths, and their weaknesses so that they will feel free to discover who they truly are in spite of expectations which may be weighing on them. One way to do this is having the students try new things.

A Sense of Self and a Sense of Community: Climbing the Tallest Sand Dune at Great Sand Dunes National Park

In new experiences, children are not bound to behaving or thinking in ways that they’ve always done. This opens the door for them to be creative and break away from traditional bonds that may be holding them back. It also gives the teacher an opportunity to recognize the children’s strengths and praise them.

I have seen this in action in an alternative education setting at a camp I worked at. Part of the camp’s mission was to help the campers discover their “Sense of Self.” To do so, we encouraged our campers to challenge themselves and to try new things. This transformed each and every one of them by building their self-confidence and helping them discover new things about themselves.

In addition to understanding one’s self, children are also striving to understand others. As we saw in the “Stillface Experiment” infants (and young children in general) are highly sensitive to emotion and base their understanding of others on the emotions they perceive from them.This being the case, teachers need to consider what emotions their body language and faces are giving to children, because, more often than not, their faces are stoic – which do not engender positive, emotional feedback. Simply smiling and revealing enthusiasm can make a world of difference.

Kim Foster: Nature counselor, Explorer, Mud-hiker, and All-Around-Excellent-And-Enthusiastic Teacher

Kim Foster has been on the staff at High Trails Ranch for the last three summers.  Kim is currently working on a Master’s degree in Teaching and Learning at Peabody College of Vanderbilt University.  Kim is in the process of defining an area of study for her thesis and wrote the above as her “Development Application Paper.”

“Why Kids Need Nature”: WE AGREE

Friday, March 4th, 2011

We found a great article on the Children and Nature Network web site this morning: Why Kids Need Nature. At Sanborn we more than understand the value of kids spending time in nature, and we love being able to share more research about the importance of it with others.

I wonder what that tastes like?

Scholastic Parent and Child Magazine interviewed Richard Louv to gain more insight into why it is important for children’s well-being to spend time outdoors and how parents are able to expose their children to nature. Louv explains that time in nature can help fight obesity, depression, and ADD as well as help kids activate their brains (in a different way than school provides) and utilize all their senses. Including their sense of wonder which we emphasize in our summer camps and school weeks programs. It can be hard for parents and children to find the time and space to explore nature. Sports, clubs, meetings, homework all take time during already busy family schedules. Not many neighborhoods have the space for kids to run and play freely.

Louv explains that it is understandable that parents are hesitant to send their kids out to explore unsupervised, but that he finds more and more parents spending time outdoors with their children. We believe that not only kids benefit from nature, but adults as well! Louv states, ”Nature is good for everyone’s mental health.” It is fun for parents to get out with their children and go on scavenger hunts around the yard and neighborhood and take a break from work and for a hike in the woods. The more enthusiastic parents are, the more excited their children will be about their abilities to explore.

“Nature isn’t the problem; it’s the solution.” The Children and Nature Network recognizes the challenges parents may face taking the initiative to take their children outdoors and provide parents with local resources and ideas. We at Sanborn also try to provide resources and ideas for parents and children to reconnect with nature. Here are just a few:

Beyond 101 Nature Activities

New Adventures

Ariella and the Wild Animals

A Small Sounds Tapestry

Time for a Special Place

News from Camp: March 1st Update

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

Snow is melting...for now

March has come in like a lamb with blue skies and mild temperatures. It feels like Spring and this makes us even more excited about the upcoming summer.

Julie and Mike finished up their camp road show programs for the year last week in Boulder, CO.  Thank you again to everyone who attended one of these programs and especially to those camp families and alums who helped with arrangements.

We had a wonderful “Reconnect with Sanborn” event in Denver on February 27 and were excited to see so many alums from all eras at camp.  We took a lot of photos which are now up on our Facebook page, so check them out.

A few Prehistoric (yet still VERY FINE) HT ladies at the Denver Reconnect

Jerry and Elizabeth will be heading East next weekend to host two “Reconnect” events in Greenwich and New York City on March 6. They look forward to seeing Sanborn alums in this part of the country.

We have many projects underway in preparation for camp next summer.  Mike, Julie, Ryan, and Elizabeth have been hiring some outstanding staff members for next summer.  We have some great returning staff as well as some super new staff signed up for the summer of 2011.  We are working on many areas of the program, too, which will provide some exciting new activities and trips this summer.

New Tent Frames and Platforms at Big Spring

Our maintenance crew has finished laying new electrical lines on the North Ridge of High Trails and has finished renovations in the HT Lodge kitchen and the Cedar Lodge bathroom.  They have also installed new solar powered lights with motion sensors along the trails between the Lodge and the cabins to make it easier to see where we are going at night.  At Big Spring, they continue to work on refinishing the outside of the Lodge and rebuilding tent frames.

Ariella and Ashley have been keeping us up-to-date on the Internet, and our blog is an active, informative site with valuable information for families, alums, and youth development professionals.

If you "Like" us IRL (In Real Life) you should like us on Facebook

Our Facebook page is extremely active, too, and has 1500 fans at this time.  On February 22nd, in partnership with Mom It Forward, ACA, and the Children in Nature Network, Sanborn hosted a wildly successful “Twitter Party” using the hashtags #gno (Girls Night Out) and #sanborncamps to talk about the importance of getting kids outside and the value of a summer camp experience.  Along with sharing great information, our virtual connections have truly enhanced our real-life connections resulting in new campers, conference speaker opportunities, new business for The Nature Place, and much, much more.  If you aren’t already doing so, please visit us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Camp is only three months away and we can’t wait.  Already we have campers and staff from 38 states and 10 countries—and we’re adding more every day.  The fun and friendship which occurs when all of these great people get together is what makes camp so special!  We are happy to send our brochure and DVD to anyone interested in learning more about the exciting programs at Big Spring, High Trails, and Sanborn Junior.